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BURNT BELIEF/Emergent: The third set from the Porcupine Treer on hiatus and an experimental guitarist takes you to the land of mind expanding sound scapes that are a load of instrumental gems. They never try to be abstruse or overly commercial choosing to sail down a middle course they bring a real mastery to. Progressive rock fusion that opens the ears nicely, this is a welcome change of pace in a lot of ways. Well done.

BRUCE KATZ BAND/Out From the Center: Katz ain't afraid of nothing this time out. Hitting the ball farther than before, he's fully in touch with his skills, let's the recording console know which end is up and takes a trip around the horn of blues with his blues belting B3 smoking throughout. A delightful left field surprise of a record, this is a full fledged rocking party on a platter specially made for party people looking for some ignition. A wonderful fusillade of a roots music with soul, Katz delivers better than the most flawless obstetrician. Hot stuff throughout and it's all original.

LIVESAYS/Hold On...Life is Calling: Here's a rock set that'll stop you in your tracks. Leader Billy Livesay is one of those cats that's out there redefining the new paradigm. An extended associate of Springsteen with more movie and TV placements that you can imagine, youngsters might think this cat is stuck in the 70s but he's right up the boomer alley, even if they don't know it. The kind of commercial rocker that doesn't make hipsters feel self conscious for liking his stuff, the voice, the tunes and the moves all merge into a swell stew of the rock we grew up with and still think is out there. Well done throughout.

TOM HARRELL/Something Gold Something Blue: It's too late in the game to argue with this trumpet ace. Delivering a straight ahead session in the Miles mode (which one?---he wasn't traveling through space yet), Harrell and his pals play like they would on the bandstand and keep you riveted throughout. The kind of stuff you expect from a solid pro that keeps moving fast enough that your ears never become jaded, there's plenty of steak here under the smoke and sizzle. Hot stuff.

ERIC ALEXANDER/Second Impression: Even when suffering through a pain in the ass, the sax pro seems to leave it all behind when he's playing with long time pals Bob Cranshaw, Harold Mabern and Joe Farnsworth (yeah smart ass, he's the dead guy from "Heaven Can Wait" and he showed up for this date). For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, this is what jazz is, right here on this disc. Not shy about letting his bop chops fly, this is what you want to listen to when you want something to listen to. Killer stuff throughout.

MASUMI ORMANDY/Sunshine in Manhattan: The under pinning of this album is the stuff that NPR loves to trumpet. Y'know what? This has enough going for it on its own that NPR can come late to the party and it won't matter. Produced by Rosanne Vitro, she must have stayed up nights thinking this up. A 77 year old vocalist, who photographs much younger, always wanted to be a vocalist. Here she gets her wish, pretty much singing the songs she grew up with. Another take on the great American song book, Houston Person shows up on "As Time Goes By'; Sara Caswell shows up on "My Way"; there's a lot of wow on this session. Jazz vocal fans just need to open their ears in this direction for a real treat from start to finish where the music and the singing are never less than first rate. A classic feeling date that isn't afraid to swing, this is the real deal Well done.

QUINSIN NACHOFF/Flux: A left leaning sax man, Nachoff mines the gulf between jazz and classical in an angular fashion going for art without being artsy. Not just for Sunday afternoon eggheads, this is a progressive date in a low key way with downtown cats in tow that are in a highly sympathetic mood. Solid stuff for the adventurous listener, this is moving work that hit's the target mightily.

SALTMAN KNOWLES/Almost: A bit of a change up from this duo that's been through some changes since we last heard from them five years ago, they find the groove and swing away, sometimes post bop, sometimes straight ahead but always playing in the pocket jazz. Joined by some new pals, this duo isn't afraid to be mainstream and make music that's fun to hear. Over all, it's easy going stuff from a pair that love their jobs and want to have some good times roll your way. Well done and full of surprises to keep your ears from getting complacent. Check it out.

OWEN CAMPBELL/Breathing Bullets: Devon Allman is producing this Aussie blues rocker and he's showing more of his dad's roots here than his mom's. Mixing the jam band ethos with a real 70s rock vibe, this cat is pouring it out from the heart with no pretense. With a battle scared voice that really puts the lyrics across, Campbell is a wonderful new find that seems right at home recording this in Memphis with the dials turned up. Something new and out of the ordinary, this set kicks ass and doesn't bother to hang around and take names. If any of these genres and touchstones mentioned resonate with you, this set will too. Well done.

THE REFUSERS/Wake Up America: You know things are getting bad when a Wall Street hot shot drops out to be a punk rock Phil Ochs and serve up contemporary protest music about...how bad things are. If you believe it doesn't mean shit to a tree and that the answer is blowing in the wind, this bunch will wake you up harder than any Occupy stuff did and make you think a little harder than the usual Internet click bait that passes for analysis. Hey kids, once upon a time people really did want messages in their music. Give it a try, this is no wank paid for with daddy's money.

Volume 39/Number 288
August 16, 2016
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2016 Midwest Record

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